Thursday, September 15th, 2016

INSECT DEADLY TO ASH TREES NEARING MORRIS COUNTY

eab-pix-1The Morris County Board of Freeholders received an environmental assessment this week today from a tree consultant who detailed the devastation wrought on ash trees from Michigan to the East Coast by the tiny Emerald Ash Borer, and the likelihood that this insect would soon find its way into the forests and backyards of Morris County.

Certified tree expert and forester Richard Wolowicz, hired by the county Insurance Commission to assess the EAB issue, said the tree-killing insect, which has destroyed some 50 million trees in eastern North America, has now been discovered in eight New Jersey counties, including neighboring Somerset County.

Wolowicz, who spoke at Wednesday’s freeholder work session in Morristown, said the expectation that Morris County will soon face this issue will present county government, and local municipalities, with some difficult and costly options. He provided some sobering facts:

  • eab-pix-2

    Ohio Neighborhood. Left: Prior to infestation Right: After infestation

    Some 50 million ash trees have been killed and hundreds of millions are infected;

  • Most of the estimated 7.5 billion ash trees in the U.S., are likely to die;
  • There is no practical way to prevent EAB from spreading to virgin woods;
  • Once infested, almost all untreated ash trees die within five years;
  • Infected ash trees become brittle and difficult-to-remove safety hazards;
  • There are several treatment options, requiring annual treatment for a decade (depending on the insect population). Treatment options have been found to be effective in controlling the pests.
Freeholder Deborah Smith

Freeholder Deborah Smith

“This is not an issue we can avoid,’’ said Freeholder Deborah Smith, who is chair of the Insurance Commission and requested today’s briefing. “It was discovered in New Jersey in 2014 and has moved quickly to eight other counties, including Somerset County. It’s only a matter of time before it crosses into Morris County – if it hasn’t already. We need to be prepared to take action.’’

The Emerald Ash Borer was discovered in North America – in Michigan and then Ontario, Canada, in 2002, and has been spreading through the country. The Borer is not a leaf feeder, but lethal damage is caused by the insect in its larval stage when it tunnels inside the tree bark, destroying a tree’s vascular system.

Wolowicz cautioned county government to develop a strategy as soon as possible and offered several options to consider:

  • Start removing low value ash trees as soon as possible, eliminating food for the insect and getting a better price on removal while contractors and tree removal equipment are still available;
  • Start treating high value ash trees next spring;
  • Start replanting other species of trees as soon as possible to lessen the aesthetic impact.
Post EAB infestation neighborhood

Post EAB infestation neighborhood

Morris County Park Commission Executive Director Dave Helmer said his agency, which has more than 18,000 acres of parkland, has started to inventory ash trees in developed park sites, near campgrounds, trails, parking lots and other busy locations where dying ash trees could pose a safety threat.

The Park Commission also is participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emerald Ash Borer trapping program. Traps have been installed on ash trees in Silas Condict, Lewis Morris, Schooley’s Mountain county parks, as well as at the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation to help determine if and when EAB finds its way to Morris County.

To view the county’s EAB presentation, visit: emerald-ash-borer-presentation-morris-county-final

To view the Park Commission’s presentation, visit: 9-14-16-parks-presentation

For a detailed video on the EAB issue, visit the county website at http://morriscountynj.gov/ and scroll down to the video.

Also, the state Department of Agriculture has a wealth of information at: http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/prog/emeraldashborer.html